Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa. They are as different as they are the same. To know where these two men are going, it is important to know where they have been; it is important to look back at some of their history with one another. In 2015, the first recorded match involving these two was as part of Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s always famous Battle of Los Angeles. The two were members of the losing side in a five-on-five matchup. Their first match against one another was the following year as part of the now-defunct EVOLVE promotion. Thatcher was the EVOLVE Champion and defended the title against Ciampa in a match that was just over twenty minutes. It was clear then that there was something special about these two men when they stood in the ring with one another.
The career of Tommaso Ciampa in NXT has seen true highs and certainly lows. He is a former NXT Tag Team Champion and a former NXT Champion. But one of the biggest questions about Ciampa is where his place is now in the program. He lost to Karrion Kross handily, then returned and engaged in a feud against Jake Atlas. Were the days of him being a champion behind him and his role is now to elevate others?
When Ciampa joined Johnny Gargano in NXT after leaving Ring of Honor, fans had clamored for the return of the Psycho Killer. They received a passionate and hard-hitting talent that was as committed to being a teammate. Ciampa and Gargano’s success as a team has been well documented. They were part of the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; they had the match of the year bouts against The Revival and captured the NXT Tag Team Championship. However, once the duo split, there was a long delay before fans saw Ciampa in action again due to serious injury. When he did return, it was nothing short of spectacular, as his in-ring persona had evolved.
For a long time, Ciampa’s story was tied to Gargano. After their long, historic rivalry concluded, Ciampa needed to find purpose once again. What would that purpose be? First, there would come a new threat, as he began a program with Karrion Kross. That short-lived feud left him lost and without purpose. Although he sadistically tore apart Jake Atlas soon after, Ciampa appeared to be floating in limbo.
This is where Timothy Thatcher enters the picture, and a new rivalry ensues. Thatcher was coming off one of the most successful wins in his career in NXT after deleting Matt Riddle. Here was a man that was as willing to hurt his opposition as he was willing to be hurt. There would have to come a time where Ciampa would step across the ring from someone who is a kindred spirit. Like Thatcher, Ciampa is committed to hitting and is just as willing to be hit. During their first encounter, Ciampa proved to be successful. However, it is less about winning the battle and more about winning the war. The two gladiators would come together to face one another in the Fight Pit.
Thatcher: “The Fight Pit is a prime chance for me to show how I believe pro wrestling can be done. I’m very grateful at NXT, they let me be me. And this match is more about the struggle than it is the performance aspect, and Ciampa is definitely the right opponent to bring that out. Our first go [at TakeOver: WarGames] was quite rough, and now we get to follow that up.”
“There have been times when I asked myself if I was making the right decision, or if I’d picked a path that was too selfish and doomed to fail. At the end of the day, pro wrestling is always about what you believe in and how you think it should be. If you’re not behind it, it’s never going to work. And this is me.”
This newly forged relationship was as much about their similarities in personality as it was their differences of opinion. Their relationship forged based on mutual respect, the duo came together to compete in the Dusty Rhodes Classic. Much like Gargano and Ciampa, the duo was quite successful right from their first time together. And in this case, their union wasn’t unlike that of Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan, a duo that came together as a tag team after a long feud with one another. Ciampa and Thatcher defeated Ariya Daivari and Tony Nese in the first round of the tournament and then defeated Adam Cole And Roderick Strong in the quarter-finals. Thus, the duo made it all the way to the Semi-finals, where the Grizzled Young Veterans defeated them. It was an impressive showing for two men that came together at the last moment.
It could be said that this is the beginning of an exciting future for the duo as a team. That was, until recently. Both men have a past. For Ciampa, his alliance with Gargano dissolved when it was clear he couldn’t be trusted. However, it is Thatcher’s past that appears to be the most intriguing right now. Fans that may not be aware of Thatcher’s career outside of NXT should note that he was part of a faction known as Ringkampf in Germany’s wXw promotion. While the name may not sound familiar, the names of those involved in said faction should be: Marcel Barthel, Alexander Wolfe, and WALTER were the other members of that faction, along with Thatcher. Each time we see him have an exchange with Wolfe or the rest of Imperium, it is a quick reminder of who he was.
The duo of Ciampa and Thatcher is steeped in respect. Imperium has called the ring sacred, and these two men seem to be of a similar mind. The relentless beatings that they endured from one another are what forged this alliance, and they should be proud of what those matches showed fans and how they helped to elevate their value. But now, their quest to be more than simply another tag team will be put to the test. There will be those that will test this new friendship, which they hope will make them stronger.
With each battle they have had with one another, it can’t be forgotten what they meant. The Fight Pit’s ferocious nature, the strikes to the face, neck, legs, back, and head of one another was intended to make a statement. Their careers in NXT are now intertwined with one another, and it is crucial that they reflect the unity that made both of their former teams so successful. In fact, to see Ciampa recently, one would think he is beginning to resemble Thatcher as he begins to grow in his hair. Each team faces adversity, and from that, they either become stronger together or dissolve. Thatcher is known for his stiff and torturous nature in the ring. Ciampa is just as capable of being sadistic and methodical in his own way in the ring.
In order for this union to remain more than a simple tease of what could be, they must embrace the many possibilities before them. As fans witnessed during this duo’s time in the Dusty Rhodes Classic, the potential rivalries ahead of them are exciting. But their biggest test appears to be in front of them right now. If Imperium continues to try and lure Thatcher as they have, he will need to show restraint. But he will need the unbridled support of his tag team partner as well. Together they will need to show that they have something special as a team. It is that special quality that could lead them to the top of NXT’s tag team division.
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